I am Redeemed

Today has been a kitchen day for me. My husband is sick and I have a district meeting tomorrow so I simply decided to bake for some of my favorite people…pastors.

baking

My mom spent a lot of days in the kitchen when I was growing up. She has been on my mind all day. I even had a few questions for her and felt so much gratitude that I could still pick up the phone and call her. Sure, google was available to me, but I’ve learned that Mrs. Google is neither as smart nor as wise as Mrs. Merki. Plus I just like to talk to her.
mom
I wonder why it is that we rarely recognize the wisdom of our parents until we are nearly 30 years old? How I wish I had not wasted some good years thinking that I knew everything.

Silence is my friend. The tv was not on today. There was no music playing. It was a day for thinking and I thought a lot about my mom. Here is what I thought about…

  1. I’m thankful I still have my mom. In the last 10 days, 3 of our pastors and our 21 year old office receptionist all lost a parent. It’s been a sobering reminder to be grateful for what I have. I don’t want my mom to have to bury me; she’s been there and done that with 2 children. That is enough. That said, I don’t look forward to the day I have to say goodbye to her. I talk to her nearly every day; it’s part of the fabric of my day.
  2. I’m thankful that, one day, my mom chose redemption. She grew up in a home with a mom, a sister and an alcoholic father. Life was difficult. When mom was a teenager, she and my dad chose Jesus. That choice changed everything. Mom’s sister made the same choice. Their choice to marry well, led to 8 children and 17 grandchildren. Ultimately, it led to my redemption.I am redeemed

Earlier this week, I saw a post where an older gentleman of faith questioned the validity of current redemption stories. I’m pretty sure it offended me because I am a product of several redemption stories and I don’t believe for a minute that these stories are obsolete.

My primary prayer moving into 2018 is that the Tim Hancock family will have generations of redemption stories. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” Psalm 23:6

 

Knowing Better…Or Not

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I’m quite sure I have never quoted Kim Kardashian before now but, her statement, “If I had known better, I would have done better,” has resonated with me so often in recent days. I’m in a season of reflecting on and learning from some of my failures and, at times, find myself longing for a do-over. I have to remind myself often that I couldn’t know what I didn’t know.

So, what about the times when I DID know better and went right ahead and did it anyway? Enter the greatest gift, astounding grace. “Our Father sent the Babe of Bethlehem, who knew no sin, to BE sin on OUR behalf so that WE MIGHT BECOME the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:21

It’s a full circle. The babe-of-Bethlehem-Jesus really is the cross-of-calvary-Jesus. The same guy. (Skit Guys) Or, to quote my favorite theologian, “Christmas and Easter are but the morning and evening of the very same day.” (Paul Merki aka Dad)

christmas

The “One”

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My sister-in-law, Brooksie, invited me to tag along with her to a weekend conference. Where? Daytona Beach. How could I say no to that? Brooksie has lots of wonderful qualities, two of which are “no guilt” and “no expectations,” so I knew this would be a true Sabbath weekend. And that is what it has been.

This morning, as I walked the beach, the lifeguard emergency vehicles came racing with their sirens blaring. Up ahead, I could see a crowd gathered. Since this is off-season, there are no crowds, so I knew something was up. As I got closer, I could hear a lot of cheering. Given the television news of late, I wondered if I was approaching some kind of demonstration.

crowd

Then I looked toward the water and saw what the fuss was about. Seven baptism stations…all occupied.

baptism

The youth group from Faith Assembly of God, Orlando, was concluding their weekend youth retreat with 300 baptisms. 300! For about 20 minutes, I attended Faith Assembly of God and found renewed hope for the future.

The lyric,“There’s nothing too dirty, that you can’t make worthy. You wash me in mercy, I am CLEAN!” kept running through my head. If Brooksie had been with me, she would have started singing. I’m guessing they would have joined her.

I have been on a Facebook fast, feeling convicted to spend more time praying. Facebook was stealing far too much of my time and my joy. The prayer that drove the fast is “Lord, send a revival to our college campuses.” As I stood watching the celebration this morning, I wondered if the answer to my prayers was starting right where I was standing – with the youth group at Faith Assembly; a revival that could spread to college campuses and maybe even reach some too-long satisfied, saved, sanctified, sour adults. Wouldn’t THAT be something!

As I turned to walk back to our hotel, I saw the lifeguards pulling a man out of the surf. I learned he was a near drowning, after being sucked into the undertow. My eyes took in his jeans, his leather belt and the look in his eyes as he walked past me to the lifeguard station. I couldn’t help but wonder if his too-far walk into the sea was accidental or purposeful.

The lyric to another song, one the teens would not recognize, began playing in my mind.

i-was-sinking

This morning I witnessed one near drowning and 300 safe…and I was reminded, once again, that the 300 are mine to celebrate. The one? He is mine too. Luke 15 reminds me that Jesus leaves the 300 to find the one.

Who is your “one” this week? Who is mine?

Hi! My name is JoAnne and I am a Baby Boomer who is partially responsible for Millennials not believing in sin.

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Every now and then, a blog circulates whose content I have to process. “Brothers and Sisters, Unwed Pregnancy is not a Sin” is the current recipient of my pondering mind. I found myself mostly challenged and a little troubled as I read the blog.no sinI am troubled because I’m afraid that the generation of which my daughter is a part, really doesn’t believe in sin. I am troubled because if there is no sin, there is no need for a Savior. And if there is no need for a Savior, then everything I’ve believed is undone. Christmas and Easter and everything in between becomes meaningless. That troubles me.the-passion-of-the-christ-05

But, as I read, perhaps what troubled me most was the “why” behind the article; the message that said, “I’m over being condemned by your faith rather than being loved into faith by your faith.” Enter my partial responsibility for your lack of belief in sin.

I’m sorry millennials.

I’m sorry I confused you with rules that have no basis in scripture; rules that Jesus didn’t make but for which I credited Him anyway.

I’m sorry I cut off your questioning simply because your questions scared me.

I’m sorry for the times I put more emphasis on the rules than on the grace-relationship Jesus died to have with you.
Yancy quoteI’m sorry for listening to your words rather than your heart.

I’m sorry that I didn’t always keep “the main thing” the main thing.

I’m sorry if I forgot my primary responsibility with you; love not judgement.

Hear me. I am not against rules. They are a part of life and are often for our good, both as children and as adults. They establish necessary order and boundaries. I am, in fact, FOR rules, especially God-given rules.

What I am against are rules, made up by Christians, that have no basis in scripture. Rules that say we don’t wear hats or jeans to church. Rules that say we shouldn’t celebrate life that is conceived before marriage; a “rule” that too often makes you believe that the abortion clinic is your only option for the life growing inside you. Hard and fast rules erroneously proclaiming that scripture condemns drinking rather than having the conversations with you about why the choice to participate in social drinking carries with it the potential for ruined lives and influence. Rules that say Jesus is against coffee and stained carpet. Rules that say “I will donate this as long as I get to control how it’s used.” Basically, rules that say, “I’m more concerned about my way, my comfort and my power than winning you for Jesus.”  Those rules. I’m against those rules.

The conclusion I’m left to reach is this: it’s no wonder millennials don’t believe in sin when we have called everything we disagree with or are afraid of “sin.” Shame.on.us!

What I need to consistently confess is that scripture does teach about sin and eternal separation from God and I need to be ready with Biblical answers for what those things are. 2_timothy_3_16Not my opinion, God’s. I need to engage with you on your journey. I need to listen. I need to know scripture so I can be true to SCRIPTURE and I need to admit when I don’t know the answer to your questions. We can find those answers together. I need to pray for myself and then for you every day. I need pure motives. I need to let God be God. He will do His job. I need only do the job He has given me to do….LOVE YOU!
And I do – love you!

Sleep In Heavenly Peace

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I’m still really new to this blogging thing.  “My Life in Ink” is still taking shape.  I write when I am inspired.  I’m pretty silent otherwise.  And I am very well aware that I’m not the only person who writes.  This morning I woke up to a blog that my friend Michelle Prater Henrickson wrote.  Her sweet daddy went to heaven two days ago and what she had to say resonated with me to the point that I had to ask her if she would be my blog guest today.  She has consented.

The Hancock family had empty seats at the table today.  We shed some tears as we shared memories.  But, as Michelle reminded me this morning, we also have great cause to celebrate for Jesus has come.

Enjoy my friend Michelle this evening.  I’m pretty speechless in the shadow of her raw honesty today.  I love you Michelle.  My thoughts and prayers are with you, Jenn, all the “littles” and your precious mom tonight.

Rev. Prater

Silent Night
Holy Night
All is calm
All is bright.

A couple weeks ago I had been wrestling with how those in the throes of grief can still feel celebratory toward Christmas. It was difficult for me to wrap my brain around, but I persisted in this thought. I’ve had enough distance from the time of losing Melissa that my heartache isn’t nearly as raw and exposed as some others I know facing loss of some kind.

I know of a family…..a beautiful family…..that nearly three months ago laid their beautiful healthy three year old down for a nap. This son, grandson, brother, and nephew never woke up again. I cannot fathom their loss. Yet, these are people of immense faith. Some of the greats if you will. They forge onward. Trusting. Believing.

Just this last week a friend from my college days said a sorrowful goodbye to his thirty-eight year old bride after an oh so brief battle with cancer. This couple is by no means ordinary. They are in fact, extraordinary. In their walk, talk, and big life view. They *get* it. Although I’d been forced to *get* it a few years ago when I saw three little ones and a heartbroken Daddy & husband say goodbye to their beloved, my sister, I was challenged by this couple, Mark and Rebecca. So very challenged.

Kevin, Ki, and I were invited to a Christmas concert recently where Lincoln Brewster and an all black children’s’ choir from Chicago sang. We literally rocked out to some sweet Christmas tunes. It was in that moment that night, as I found myself wishing I could lose myself in a crowd of black people who knew how to freely get their worship on…..it was in that moment as I danced and sang “Joy to the World” and “Do You Hear What I Hear” that I GOT IT.

THIS. THIS. THIS is why the grieving can celebrate. This is why the mournful can dance. Because Love came into a darkened world. A glorious God who was full of mercy gave his Son. This. Yes. This. I needed that connection I made that night. I would call upon its truth this week. As we left the concert that evening, I told Kevin and Ki that I wish I had been more inconspicuous so that I could’ve freely responded to the way the music moved me. Kevin laughed and said that it didn’t seem I was holding back. Smile. Baby steps.

Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright.

I came home to my precious Mother tonight for the first time since Dad left this world and went home to the place where his faith has been made sight. I held her in my arms. We’re all cried out for now. The well of tears that seemed so plentiful seems to be at a scarce supply for the time being. I MISS my Dad. He’s not even been gone from this world for forty-eight hours and I miss him desperately.

But, I will celebrate the Great Hope of this season. I would fail myself if I didn’t. I would be remiss. This Season is the crux of my belief system. It’s the reason I can stand and walk forward. I won’t overlook the truth it brings simply because I am wrought with sadness or even despair. In fact, I will delve more deeply into its vast supply of hope and promises.

“All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come go and tell
That He is in the manger.”

The babe is in the manger, folks!!! The Son of God is lying in the manger. Because of that, all is well. Indeed, it is. What an immense hope we have.

Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Merry Christmas, friends!!!

5 Things My Father Taught Me About Christmas

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Two years ago, in the month of December, my dad went to be with Jesus.  It was a day he dreamed about and spoke of often.  We could do nothing but celebrate his safe arrival in heaven.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt seemed so fitting that he would join Jesus in December because my dad was one of the world’s best celebrators of Christmas.  I have lots of memories of Christmas…the decorating of trees, the consumption of cookies, the houses filled with laymen and their families around dinner tables, the driving through neighborhoods looking at light displays, the sacred Christmas Eve services, the family reading of the Christmas story before we opened a single gift, the music, the selection of the perfect gift…you get the picture.  He loved Christmas.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been thinking this week about the greatest lessons he taught me in the 52 years I had the privilege of celebrating with him in some form or another.  These are the things I will never get past at this time of year:

1)  There is always fresh wonder in the story.  Always.  Every year.  Without exception.  Wonder.  It was one of his favorite words.  The story that a baby wrapped in flesh would come into our mess in order to save us from ourselves?  How can that not be filled with wonder?  My dad knew it and he communicated it with conviction.
wonderMaybe my favorite Christmas ever was a Sunday Christmas.  Dad was pastoring in Baltimore, MD at that time.  I will never forget his message on that December 25; “He is here, hallelujah!”  Dad would preach a point and then have the congregation sing a chorus of “He is here, hallelujah!”  By the second singing of the chorus, the congregation began to come to their feet.  Wonder had entered the room and remaining in our seats was not an option.  To use another one of dad’s words; he was “befuddled” by the response, but finished out a masterful and meaningful sermon to a standing congregation.  I have looked forward to every Sunday Christmas since that day. Wonder just may show up on the scene again and I don’t want to miss that!

2)  Christmas Eve candlelight communion at eight.  If my dad was ever your pastor, you know about this annual service.  It was sacred.
lightbox_christmascandlelightDad knew outstanding music when he heard it and he was a lover of outstanding music.  For thirty minutes every Christmas Eve, we heard outstanding, sacred music.  I remember harps, flutes, trumpets, trombones, pianos, organs, vocalists – all who played and sang until I thought heaven had come to earth.
?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Following the prelude, we had a sixty minute service that included more music, scripture reading, a short devotional and communion – all in a sanctuary solely lit by candles.  Our instructions were to enter the sanctuary in silence and to stay that way until the end of the service when the lights were thrown on and “Joy to the World” was proclaimed.  Babies and toddlers were well cared for in nurseries.  It was sacred.

My favorite Christmas Eve ever was also in Baltimore, MD.  Like many Christmas Eves, we were packed in like sardines.  The drunken man who stumbled in off of the street chose to squeeze in beside me.  Some folks have all the luck.  He didn’t smell so good.  He didn’t sing so good.  He even asked me why we were there.  He didn’t know the rules about talking.  And then he settled in and I could feel the tension leave his body.  I have no idea what became of him but I do know that for ninety minutes on a Christmas Eve in Baltimore, MD, he experienced sacred.  He disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

3)  Communion has a place in our celebration of Christmas.  A Christmas never went by that I didn’t hear my dad say, “Christmas and Easter are but the morning and evening of the very same day.”  Let that one sink in for a while.  It’s the wonder thing making another appearance.  When looked at through that lens, communion becomes as natural at Christmas as it is at Easter.  Jesus really did come to die.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4)  There is room for the secular at Christmas.  My parents did Christmas well.  Not over-the-top-spending-crazy-money well but, rather, building tradition and memories well.  And Santa was a part of our Christmases.
SantaDad was my first and best Santa.  He taught me that Christmas is about the giving of gifts and it started with God’s gift.  We were never allowed to tear into the gifts.  One at a time – that’s how we opened gifts even as kids.  We learned to GIVE the gift and enjoy the excitement of the recipient.  For one thing, we didn’t have that many gifts and this made the exchange last longer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know there is controversy in the whole Santa/Jesus combination and every family has to do what they feel is right for them.  I’m just glad we did Santa.  It has left me with lots of happy memories of my dad.  And I never once felt lied to.  Kris Kringle (Christkind) was a saint after all.  What would have made me feel lied to would have been a dad who did not keep his vows to my mom or parents who spent money they didn’t have at Christmas ushering in an annual January filled with stress and anger or parents who claimed Christ at church and then sliced everyone up as soon as we were in the car headed home.   Those would have been the lies that changed my belief in Jesus.

5)  The cookies.  Dad’s favorite cookies.  The cookies his 4 kids eat as if there is no caloric content.  The ones that melt in your mouth.  The ones the grandkids are now making in their own homes.  Try ‘em, you’ll like ‘em.
Dad's favorite cookiesFilled Butter Cookies aka “Paul’s Favorite Christmas Cookies”
Cream:  1 pound butter
Add:  1 ½ cups brown sugar
Blend in:  2 unbeaten egg yolks
Add:  4 ½ cups flour

Mix until a dough forms.  Chill for easier handling.  Shape into balls about the size of a marble.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten to 1/8”.  Bake @ 375 for 7-10 minutes, depending on size.

Browned Butter Frosting Filling
Brown slightly:  4 Tbsp. butter.  Remove from heat.
Blend in:  2 ½ cups powdered sugar
Gradually add:  3-4 Tbsp. cream and 1 tsp. vanilla

Put between 2 cookies.  Makes about 4 ½ dozen.

Thanks dad (and mom) for all of the memories you gave me of Christmas.  Thanks for teaching me about the Christ child.  Thanks for teaching me that it really is more fun to give than to receive.  Thanks for teaching me that HIS life can change MY life.  Thanks for recognizing great music and enjoying good cookies.  Thanks for defining “wonder.”

Merry Christmas.  I love you.
Luke 2.11

Dear Bald Female…You.are.Beautiful

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly five years since our thirteen year old Abi came home from school with concern that a friend had noticed a bald spot on the crown of her head.  I suggested she loosen her basketball pony tail.
scan0008It was only a few short weeks until we realized that we were dealing with an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata.  Abi’s immune system had decided that her hair was some sort of enemy causing her hair follicles to release the hair.  The reality that our teenage daughter was headed for baldness placed me on a road that has held my greatest grief and my greatest blessings.

There are several reasons for female baldness, some of them with much more serious underlying causes than others.  This letter to you is not about what caused your baldness.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t pretend to understand your journey.  I won’t even write FOR my Abi so I certainly wouldn’t presume to write for you.  I can only tell you what I have learned along the way in hopes that some of what I have learned may comfort you.

Watching Abi lose her hair grieved me more than anything in my life to this point.  It is my second greatest regret in my parenting of her.  I was a mess…for a long time.  Depression and grief settled over me like storm clouds in the Florida summer.  Just about the time I felt like I could breathe, another storm came.  And another.  And another.
storm cloudsAdding to my grief were well-meaning friends who questioned whether some of our parental decisions contributed to her hair loss.  Really?  It was during these days that Job 13:5 became my life verse.  You can make it yours if you need to.  It’s a good one.
Job 13 5It felt like my tears could have filled oceans.  I begged God to heal Abi.  All night long I begged Him.  I spent days and nights combing the internet for understanding, for cures, for specialists.  I made appointments with those specialists; specialists who suspected she may be pulling her hair out, specialists who took biopsies from her scalp, specialists who placed multiple injections into her scalp, specialists who really didn’t understand alopecia areata any better than I.

We then found several resources for hair pieces.  The learning curve with wigs was extensive.   Abi did finally get it conquered, but it was never something she preferred.  Either the tape was messy or the lace was too loose or the vacuum gave her headaches.  So she moved to cute bandanas.  And then to bald.
Hancock-10 senior IMG_1497That’s the day I realized how stunningly beautiful she is.  She had nothing to hide behind.  Her eyes became more beautiful.  Her smile lit up the room.  She carried a confidence that very few women possess.  I sure don’t.  And it’s all pure beauty.

I began realizing that when I encountered a bald woman I was studying her beauty.  And it’s true of you if you are bald.  You.are.beautiful.  It’s one of the most consistent thoughts I have.

You may never be comfortable walking out in public bald.  It’s okay.  Just know this; you are still beautiful even if you only choose to be bald in private places.  Beauty is beauty wherever it is displayed.

Or you may be like Lindsey.

Lindsey’s mom was mostly an acquaintance in college; an acquaintance who has become a treasured friend.  Cheryl saw my early, vague posts about Abi and privately asked if Abi had alopecia.  I learned that Lindsey’s alopecia surfaced when she was just eighteen months old.  And Lindsey spent every day covering her head with hair…until she gave birth to a beautiful daughter of her own.  That event made Lindsey realize her true beauty.  For Lindsey it became about being exactly who she is so that she can teach her daughter to grow and be exactly who she is.  There is beauty all over that.  Not right or wrong, just beauty.
Lindsey preg
LindseyOr you may decide to be like our Abi.  Just out there.  She often says, “My hair does not define me.”  And she lives that.  Jesus defines her.  Let’s talk about beauty! 

So here it is in a nutshell.  No woman ever really believes the “It’s just hair” line. (No pun intended.)  It isn’t “just hair.”  It’s YOUR hair.  Female baldness is a very big deal.  It means something, somewhere is wrong and it reminds you of that truth every single day.

But another truth is that your beauty does not lie in your hair or lack thereof.

Your beauty is in eyes that allow us to see into your soul. 

Your beauty is in a mouth that speaks blessing. 

Your beauty is in a smile that spreads joy. 
Abi chipmunk
Peru prom prom 2 gradIf you have cancer, your beauty lies in your bald head because it means you are doing something to stay with those who love you and whom you love.  If you have alopecia, your beauty lies in your bald head because you exude confidence.

Still don’t believe me?  Then at least trust me on this one bald female…

YOU.ARE.BEAUTIFUL!

Sincerely grateful for your inspiration,

JoAnne Hancock

Where Will You Store Christmas?

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Last Sunday was the first in advent.  It was the day proclaiming hope and it reminded me that a day on a calendar cannot guarantee the very emotion that day promises. It was the day we withdrew our offer on a house; the house I just knew we would be in by Christmas.  It was a day that left me hopeless…though peaceful.

It was a day on which we continued our long obedience in the same direction, something Eugene Peterson said and my boss keeps quoting.  It invades my thoughts every time he says it for I want it to be the truth of my life.
long-obedienceTwo years ago I never dreamed our earthly possessions would still be in storage.  Our great bed.  Our new couch.  My new Bible reading chair.  Our daughter’s life.  Our Christmas.  Lots and lots of Christmas.

I love Christmas.  I love the Baby, the decorating, the lights, the parties, the baking, the traditions, the giving, the HOPE.  Somewhere in the pile of pictures in storage is the sign that reads:
hopeI love HOPE enough to buy signs defining it that live on the walls of our house.

Only we don’t have a house.  Our current housing has been a true gift.  We have lived in a mobile home park in the midst of many senior adults from our church.  It’s exactly where we have needed to be for this season.  We love them and they love us.  But, because it’s a snow bird rental, we knew we needed to be out of it by years end.  No problem.  We had eight months.  We’d be out in plenty of time.  We would celebrate Christmas in our new house with all of the decorations on display that we have not seen for two years.  Our girl would pull in from college to sights of tradition, memories, gaiety.  All would be right with our world again.
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Instead, we have begun the search for a rental and Christmas week will include another move.  (We have a peace about that decision.)  It’s not what I wanted Abi to come home to.  (But we have a peace about our decision.)   I just want her to come home.  And she will.
DSC_0308I’m tired and I’m weary.  They are different.  I’m ready to be in a house that reminds me of us.  I’m ready for God to show His hand.

As I’ve been working my way through all of this, God has been speaking to me about what it means to be home. 
in-the-hands-of-the-fatherIn the last couple of years, I have been reminded by many that we DO have a home; we simply don’t have a house.  And I understand the heart behind that thought and can even recognize its truth.  I’m grateful for its truth.  I love my family.

But, if you have said that to me, you don’t know me very well.  My heart has always been in my home and much of what home means to me has been reflected in our house.  It’s been my delight to make a sanctuary there for my family.  It’s been my greatest privilege to gift them with the comfort of our home.  It hasn’t been about the stuff and it still isn’t.

It’s about belonging.  It’s about rest.  It’s about comfort.  It’s about familiarity.

And that’s the reminder God gave me this week.  He simply wants ME to be all of that for HIM.

He wants to be home in me.

He wants to belong with me.  He wants to rest with me.  He wants to comfort me.  He wants to be familiar with me.

He wants my heart to be His home.  He is much more interested in decorating my heart with Himself this Christmas than He is with anything I can pull out of a box and place on the hearth.

Don’t get me wrong.  I miss the decorating.  I’ll celebrate extra big the year we have a house laden with our familiar Christmas decorations.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADSC_0293But…for now…for this season…

God is still doing His perfect work on my heart.  My heart is His requirement of me this year.  And it will be my gift to Him.
make my heart your homeI’m at peace with that.

Life As Highlight, Delete

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My last post told you that I am in the Sandwich Generation; those years when we are still raising a child while caring for aging parents.  These years have represented far more privilege than dread.  Far more.
sandwich-generationA couple of months ago, I got an unexpected phone call asking me to come to work. The job offer was temporary but it was a good fit so I reported for duty the following day. Currently, I’m still there.  I’m working in an office that assists pastors.  My parents and siblings alone represent seven pastors and one church administrative assistant.  How could I not go honor them?

Last Friday I was working through a data base.  It’s one I didn’t know about until last week and one that needs a bit of updating.  As I was going through the files, the record for John Hancock came onto my screen.  My father-in-law now deceased.  Gone four months ago.
dad HancockI sat and stared at the screen and the name and the life represented.  In the “notes” section it said, “Wife Venita passed away September 2013.”  The life represented.  The lives touched.  The legacy left.

I knew he couldn’t stay in the data base because he would show up in reports and receive mail.  So I highlighted his name.  All I had to do was hit “delete” and I knew this record would be updated.  My job would be done.

I couldn’t.  Instead, I un-highlighted his name and moved to the next.

Later that day I called a co-worker and asked her to take on the task.  I thought I was good by then, but I wasn’t.  I still choked my way through the request.  A little later I got a text that said, “John Hancock has been lovingly removed.”  And I knew she meant it because she loved him too.

Then it hit me.  Just like that.  Highlight.  Delete.  That’s really what life comes down to in the end.  Yes, we leave a legacy.  But the legacy is created in the “highlight” portion of life.  We create a life…in the “highlight.”  We marry poorly or well in the “highlight.” We choose a Savior or not, in the “highlight.”  We introduce others to Jesus, in the “highlight.”  Then, in the end…delete.

I realized on Friday just how much the highlight matters.
Highlight (1)Today – I’m still in the highlight portion of life.  I want to make it count.  I don’t know how long I’ll be in the highlight so it HAS to count now.

What are you doing with your highlight?  Make it matter!

Helicopter God

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I was 35 when our daughter was born.  I have no idea what I was thinking or doing for those 35 years, but the “older mother” stamp on my OB file confirmed that maybe I should have been thinking and doing long before I was.

Being an “older mom” has, however, had its benefits.  One of those benefits was all of the advice I received from friends who were already pretty far down the child rearing road.  I learned about enjoying the stages of childhood, about saving school papers in pizza boxes, about the truth that it takes 10 minutes to travel from kindergarten to graduation.

And I learned about helicopter moms.

It took me a while to understand what a helicopter mom was but I did know that it wasn’t a compliment.  It wasn’t something I should be.  It was negative.

And once I did understand the meaning of helicopter mom, I could never say I completely agreed with the negative connotation it carried.  In my way of looking at parenting, God Himself entrusted me with the job of a lifetime the day Abi was born.  It was a job that required close observation and attention on my part….for a long time. Even now to some degree.

The word “hover” has always come to mind when I think about a helicopter.  Close. Watching.  Protecting.  Waiting.

What I never wanted to be was a leach mom.  A life sucker.  A hanger-on.  Always attached.

Last night I had a privilege that is becoming all too familiar in these years dubbed “The Sandwich.”  I sat beside the bed of a dying man whom I have loved and respected for nearly as long as I have been alive.  He was mostly unresponsive during the visit but, as I reminisced through the years with silent him, I could feel Helicopter God in the room.

Helicopter God.  Hovering over the bed.  Close.  Watching.  Protecting.  Loving His child. Patiently waiting without interfering.

If you stay in those sandwich years long enough, you eventually work yourself out of them.  The children grow up and leave.  The parents wear out and die.  Children leaving and parents dying can both be times of great celebration.  And often, the greater the celebration, the greater the loss.  It’s painful.

Oh but Helicopter God; He’s in the room.  He’s ready for the celebration.  And He’s also ready to wipe away the tears.  After He’s hovered a while…and shed a few Himself.
Floyd